In sports, everyone is a winner—some people just win better than others. Like the fellows who talk, write, and tweet about golf, and who yesterday got plenty to talk, write, and tweet about. Old people! Flowering shrubs! Asians! Redemption!
And more redemption! Here's the redoubtable Tom Rinaldi of ESPN, talking on your television set this morning:
Before trying to break par, he had to break the tension — 144 days to build, one walk to face, one swing to pierce. An opening tee shot has never won a tournament, but for Tiger Woods, the moment was clearly a victory.
If the drama of his words wasn't enough, ESPN borrowed half the Boston Pops to throb out a martial theme that sounded vaguely like an Eastern Bloc national anthem crossed with Indiana Jones. (I'm not sure what's worse: Tiger's extramarital humping, or ESPN masturbating in such plain view.)
Tiger shot a 4-under 68, as you know. And such was its grandeur that Rick Reilly® temporarily forgot that he once advised that Tiger ditch the Masters entirely. Here's what Reilly wrote at the time:
He needs to skip San Diego, skip the Masters, maybe even skip the U.S. Open. When your house is rubble, you don't go play the Buick Open. Tiger needs to prove to his wife, Elin, sponsors and fans that morality is more important than majors.
Remember: This came at the weird stage of the scandal when all our finest sports hacks had briefly turned themselves into Tiger's image consultants ("Here are 10 ways you can more skillfully manage your public image and thereby manipulate us all over again!"). Reilly wanted a very precisely stage-managed show of contrition, and apparently the apology kabuki had to take place somewhere other than Augusta National or Warwick Hills. (But where, exactly? The Outback Pro Am? The Mutual of Omaha Drive, Chip & Putt contest? Rick never said.) In any case, all that's forgotten now, and Reilly is writing stuff like this:
That 68 is preposterous and historic and unthinkable when you put yourself in his shoes for one minute. Imagine the emotional bloodshed he has gone through, albeit self-inflicted. He not only hadn't played a tournament the entire year, nor faced the public after five shameful months, but he was trying out a whole new serenity-now personality on the course.
Hell, even Bill Plaschke, high priest of moral dudgeon, was moved to write some pleasant haikus:
Turns out, he is what they say he is.
He is what they shout. He is what they crave. He is what they believe.
No matter how much his sleazy behavior has betrayed everything he claimed to be, Tiger Wood [sic] is still The Man.
That's how it happens in sports, remember? That's how it happened at Augusta National on Thursday, in a roaring, revealing way that will ensure you never again forget.
Tiger is back, and so is the amen choir that used to follow him around the links like the Queen's Corgis. All is right in golf again.